Posted by: Ben | January 14, 2010

Man vs Genre: Sword Of Fargoal

The Facts

Another “classic” RPG that I hadn’t heard of until last week. Written by Jeff McCord for the Vic-20 and published by Epyx (them again) in 1982. I’m playing the 1983 C64 port (available from the author’s site) on VICE, although an iPhone version has just been released. You’ll have to bear with me, as I’m not used to the C64 or its emulators, which is a massive oversight in my education that needs urgent correction.

The Cover

Possibly drawn by someone unfamiliar with human anatomy, the cover shows a gangly armoured warrior and a pot-bellied humanoid creature halfway between an ape and an orc. It’s not quite clear what they are doing. Both facing the artist, they are touching at the hip, and the distended belly of the monster appears to be resting upon the adventurer’s thigh. The creature is piteously raising an arm in self defence. The adventurer, holds a shield to protect his opposite flank as he prepares to deliver a killing blow with his dagger. It looks a little bit like one of those on-set photographs of a “domestic” distributed to TV guides ahead of an especially violent episode of Coronation Street.

Like this, basically.

Oh yeah, and there’s a massive sword on a table in front of them, its handle close to the creature’s right hand, though he doesn’t go for it. The publisher’s name is considerably more prominent on the sleeve than the game’s title.

The Lore

The misty powers of magic have settled over the Great Forest lands, twisting, swirling into every nook of the village of Ferrin. Evil spells wisp about like fog, draining courage and trust from the hearts of men. Good magics have vanished, and no longer are there brave warriors who wield weapons of steel against the land’s enemies. The Protectorate Sword is gone!
Good lands turned bad are becoming something of a theme. It turns out that the protagonist’s task is to retrieve the sword and get it to the only man who can defeat the evil wizard, or in other words they couldn’t be bothered to end the game with a boss fight.

Character Building

No need for that here. Keema Korma V is a standard adventurer, with 11 hit points.

The Game

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go into a dungeon, kill monsters and/or people and steal their treasure. Looks very much like it’s going to be a roguelike, but with real-time features, which makes it something of a first for this list.

On playing, the term roguelike turns out to be slightly misleading. It certainly goes over the same territory, but in a slightly different car. Compared to Rogue, the levels tend to be more mazelike in appearance, and you can only see unexplored regions of the map one square in front of you, which calls to mind a first-person game. The role playing experience is highly simplified, even more so than Rogue. There are six spells, one potion and no choice of weapons.

But the game’s innovation is that it takes place in real-time, giving it a notch on the Action axis of the RPG graph, although it’s no Gauntlet. Combat strategy is entirely limited to knowing who not to mess with.

So I make damn sure I’m going to level up as much as I can on weak monsters before facing tough ones. This works well at first, but if you hang around for too long on any given level, bad guys from the lower levels become impatient and start to climb up to look for you. I’m only on the second level of the dungeon, having defeated orcs, trolls, werebears, a mercenary and a monk) and have been hiding in a chapel (a “safe zone” that appears on every level) to restore my lost hit points. That done, I head for the stairs down when I meet an assassain. Much tougher, since you ask. Before I could run, my hit points spurted across the dungeon floor like warm arterial blood. Once more, cut down in my prime.

Total play time: 15 minutes

Verdict: Definitely feels like an imperfect adaptation of the concept of a roleplaying game, as though the author has cast away some of the elements that would never work on computer but hasn’t yet figured out what to replace them with. Of historical interest only.



  1. […] Man vs Genre: Sword Of Fargoal « anothermrlizard. […]

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